Power players

RiskOptics’ Meghan Maneval: Making connections with an impact

Meghan Maneval is Vice President of Product Strategy and Evangelism for RiskOptics

Before RiskOptics tasked her with turning customer wish lists into product realities, Meghan Maneval was already brainstorming how to improve the company’s product. 

She was a RiskOptics customer herself, and she knew there was potential for something more.

“I was in a GRC role [governance, risk and compliance] working as the risk manager for another organization where I oversaw third-party risk, and we were using the RiskOptics platform ZenGRC,” said Maneval. “One of the things we struggled with was that we could see all the stuff in one application — we could see our risk, we could see the vulnerabilities we had — but the objects themselves didn't act upon each other.”

Her team had great information, but little to no insight into how it all connected.  

“I would go into a meeting with my manager, and my peer would say ‘Hey, we've got these three security controls that failed.’ My manager would then ask me, ‘What does that mean for our risk?’ And I couldn't answer that.”

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Around this same time, RiskOptics began querying their customer base on what improvements they wanted to see. Maneval knew she was onto something big and went straight to the top. 

“I had a conversation with the CEO of RiskOptics where I said, pretty frankly, that I wanted in. I want to be part of this product, I have an idea, and I think it can work. Hire me.” 

The company obliged, and within three months Maneval was put in charge of building up the technical product management side where she could finally bring that idea to life.

“We wrote this map, which basically says you have your risk and everything that feeds into your risk — your threats, your vulnerabilities, etc. — and then there are your controls that reduce your risk. What we did was connect your control maturity and efficacy to your residual risk, so that when you are conducting control activities you're actually automatically adjusting your risk posture as those activities happen.”

The added layer of automation allows different parts of the organization to understand how risk changes based on what processes are introduced or taken away. 

“I like to joke that you’re in the same sandbox, but there’s someone over here playing with these toys and that impacts what’s happening on the other side of the house. What we’re really trying to do is connect those objects.”

Now in her role as Vice President of Product Strategy and Evangelism for RiskOptics, Maneval is using her talent for building connections in another capacity — equipping women to lead and be heard in an industry still disproportionately filled by men.

Over the last year, she has led the creation of a women in leadership program within RiskOptics that will give female employees more exposure and training for leadership as they advance in their careers. The group is set to have its first meeting this next week. 

“The point of the group is to build those strong connections, both internally so that our female staff members know that ‘hey, you can come to me if you need anything’, we’ve got mentorship options...but also externally, too — getting some of our women out of their comfort zone, offering them additional training, networking options, and things like that.”

From her own life experience, Maneval knows it can be an uphill battle for women to get the same level of attention and respect as their male counterparts. Sometimes the sexism is blatant – like getting called the secretary for the IT team or being held to a stricter dress code than male colleagues (both of which have happened to Maneval). But more often than not, it’s the day-to-day microaggressions that grind women down or encourage them to stay silent. 

“I was somewhere in California attending a cybersecurity summit about six to eight months ago,” she says. “We were talking to someone, and this person kept turning to my male coworker (a salesperson) and asking him technical questions, never bothering to look me in the face or ask me a question. My coworker kept saying, ‘Well, you know, Meghan literally designed the platform, she can answer your questions.’”

“At one time in my life,” she continues, “I might have cowered in a bit during moments like these. But I realized that's not doing me any favors, and it’s not doing anybody else any favors. So when I see stuff like that now, I call people out. More people need to do that, otherwise it's not going to change. We women have to get to a point where we can't be scared to say something. But that's hard, it’s really hard to get to that point of being able to self-advocate.”

Whether it’s her work with RiskOptics, serving as a volunteer leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, or being a Christian educator in her church, Maneval has earned SC Media’s designation as a Power Player through her work in building up the next generation of women leaders.

“Not everybody is going to be comfortable going onstage and doing a presentation or speaking up for themselves. So give them something they are comfortable with and build confidence from there. I really believe confidence breeds confidence.”

“A boat going through water leaves a wake behind it, right? As a manager and as a mother, I want to be like that boat, leaving this wake of positivity and confidence so that women who come after me can see me and think ‘hey, she's out there doing this, maybe I can too.’”

Daniel Thomas

Daniel Thomas is a technology writer, researcher, and content producer for CyberRisk Alliance. He has over a decade of experience writing on the most critical topics of interest for the cybersecurity community, including cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, threat hunting, automation, IAM, and digital security policies. He previously served as a senior editor for Defense News, and as the director of research for GovExec News in Washington, D.C.. 

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